Always wear nice underwear to buy groceries.

I should have seen this coming when the lady at Albertsons saw me in my underwear, but listen: I cried a lot on my birthday this year. I tend to feel an expectational forcefield around holidays and special events, and I work hard to create happy, lovely holidays. This was an easier feat before we had three small children. Not that our kids don’t make life happier and shinier in exponential amounts; they are the reason we keep traditions at all. Those three beautiful faces are the reason I make pink pancakes in February, the reason I stay up late hanging decorations before birthdays, the reason the dollar section at Target suddenly seems like a very important stop before any holiday (Tiny buckets. Tiny sponges. Tiny buttons. All useless.) I love to make my kids’ lives happier, even though I don’t want to worry if they’re happy, because I know happiness doesn’t really matter or last. They have to choose joy, eventually. (This is the absolute conundrum of motherhood- to love giving them what we know does not have much to do with us in the end.)

My kids are 4, 3, and 1, which means their world keeps spinning on special days and they just keep on being themselves, which is a fast way to ruin a party, I am sorry to report. “Kids ruin birthdays,” I told my brother the morning I turned 31, hoping my kids didn’t hear me say it. But also kind of hoping they did. I was in a bad place, ok? The morning was hectic and full of fits. Then the older two injured the baby because of their wild wrestling, and I was furious. Like, wicked stepmother tossing people into dungeons, furious. I don’t like animals but I found myself wishing for a mean pet to follow me around and scare my kids straight.

On a normal day, my kids are 85% wonderful and 15% mean-pet deserving. On my birthday last week, I cried because their percentages took a dive in the wrong direction. Bear markets all around. Again, I should have seen this all coming when the night before my birthday, I ended up nearly naked in front of an Albertsons grocery store employee.

In every grocery store, there is a sign outside the bathroom that says, “No merchandise permitted in bathrooms.” Which, fine, I understand, and who wants their cart full of groceries in a public bathroom anyway? But what- and I am asking this in all sincerity, and would appreciate tips- what are you supposed to do with the baby and the cart when the other kids need to use the restroom and they’re not big enough to go on their own? I never know what to do. Leave my cart and food in the hallway and hold the baby and my bag while helping the other two kids? Leave the baby and take the bag and pray that no one wants a grumpy baby with a runny nose anyways?

On this particular occasion, I was in a very small hallway that barely fit my cart and the bathroom was small too, and only one child needed to use the toilet. So I left Clara, my four year old, in the hallway, with the baby and the grocery cart, and tried to take Sammy in as fast as I could so the girls wouldn’t be alone for too long. We went in the bigger stall together, and after he was finished I sat down to pee, knowing it would be a long time before we were home and everyone was unloaded and I was allowed a few minutes to go to the bathroom.

Here’s where the trouble starts.

Toddlers, as a people group, love two things:

-opening and closing doors

-not listening to their parents

This is especially true in bathroom stalls, I’ve found. They love to turn that shiny latch and let themselves out, I think simply for the power of it. But since I always have to be the one who pees last, and we all use the same stall, they’re always opening the door while I’m still sitting there. I’m usually sitting on a public toilet with gritted teeth while anger-whispering “Do. Not. Open that door” and slapping my kids’ hands away from the handle.

Again, my kids are actually decent human beings whom I enjoy very much.

But public bathrooms aren’t their sweet spot.

So I’m sitting there in the Alberstons bathroom with my pants around my ankles and I hear a small commotion in the hallway where my girls are, and then I hear the baby crying. I stand up to put my pants back on, and in a perfectly timed sequence of humiliation:

  1. Sammy opens the bathroom stall door,
  2. I stand up in my underwear,
  3. An Albertson’s employee opens the bathroom door,
  4. I am still standing in my underwear,
  5. The employee looks at me standing there in my underwear,
  6. I hastily pull on my pants,
  7. Sammy marches out of the stall,
  8. The Albertson’s employee apologizes,
  9. I apologize,
  10. The employee gestures towards my crying baby,
  11. I rush out to the baby,
  12. The employee informs me that the baby is ok, she’s just crying because a  man who came out of the men’s restroom said hello to her,
  13. I finish buttoning my jeans and then pick up the crying baby,
  14. Clara loudly retells the whole story,
  15. I hustle Sammy back in the bathroom so we can wash our hands,
  16. The Albertson’s employee steps around us so that she can use the restroom,
  17. I get my kids out of the hallway and hurry up to finish my shopping,
  18. I field 100 questions about life and liberty and where gum comes from while in a long line to check out,
  19. I get out my debit card to pay for our groceries,
  20. and hand it to the checker,
  21. who in turn asks me if the baby is doing ok,
  22. because it is the lady who minutes ago saw me basically naked in a bathroom stall.

On our way out of the store, as Clara was singing a love song at the top of her lungs and Audrey was throwing a screaming fit because she wanted out of the cart, Sammy walked in front of me and I didn’t see him before his heel got clipped and he fell to the floor crying. Not a huge problem, of course, because he was wearing his new bike helmet that he refuses to take off, so his head was fine. This all happened right as my friend Stephanie waved hello from where she was watching us stumble down the aisle in mass chaos. I was sweating profusely at this point, from my efforts to contain Audrey’s 18 pounds of fit-throwing, and also from the kind of humiliation reserved for mothers with small children.

After putting all our groceries away that night and staying up late to clean my whole house (because the only way I wanted to wake up on my birthday was to a spotless home), I woke up tired and surprisingly surprised at how the next day went with my kids. Because really, people who bust open bathroom stalls and sing loudly in public and lay down on dirty linoleum floors to cry cannot be trusted to make sure you have a happy birthday.

They cannot.

Still. I had many beautiful surprises on my birthday; flowers and sandwiches and cherry pies and friends who love me; it was a sweet, sweet day. And when my little family sang Happy Birthday to me at home that night, my three year old son, that helmet-wearing bathroom bandit, was so overcome with emotion he couldn’t even finish the song- he just lovingly kissed my cheek and buried his head in my shoulder with tears in his eyes, and told me he loved me “the whole world, even to heaven.”

Happy birthday indeed.

So, now I know. This is my version of 31- sticky and exhausted, and often surrounded by bare bums- and as humiliating as mothering can be, it’s the ultimate gift. My joy is deep, and their love is as good as it gets.

Now I just need to find a new establishment where I can buy our French bread, and everything will be fine.

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Birthday with my babes.

Life with Clara Horney.

I’m just gonna go ahead and say it:
I didn’t really enjoy 1 year old Clara.

I mean, sure, we had good days, great ones even, and there is nothing she could ever do to change how much I love her. Nothing.
But like her?
Those days felt few and far between, especially right around 16 months. Which is coincidentally when I had baby Samuel? So maybe my patience was a little thin (and reeking of hormonal rage) as well, but I’m putting most of the blame on her thin toddler shoulders.

Call me what you will.

I think, for me, the hard part about the year between 1 and 2 was the cognitive leaps paired with the language barriers. She was smarter than ever and turning daily from ‘baby’ to ‘child,’ but the gap between her brain and my ears was astounding at times. We were frustrated with each other, and we also had a new guy on the premises, and then there was potty training and big girl beds and just a general smattering of 3 feet high growing pains. I would never trade a day with her, not for anything, but I have to tell you- I am glad we are done with that year.

Becase TWO years old is where it’s at, guys.
She’s so fun. SO fun. She’s a mature two, if such a thing exists in a world of people who fall off furniture for laughs. For instance, I just saw her eating candy off her gingerbread house and told her to stop; she took the M&M out of her mouth and placed it back on the frosted chimney. She’s a rule follower to the max and not much of a fit-thrower, and loves to use her manners. (These oldest daughters, what a bizarre breed, huh? I’ll never understand it, but it’s a joy to raise.)

She’s sassy as anything and the whining can make me want to slice my ears off but for the most part- she’s a joy. She makes me laugh all the time, on accident and sometimes even (miraculously) on purpose, so I started writing down the things she says. Because like every good parent, all of my children’s memories and stories are collected on scraps of paper all over my house with barely legible notes scribbled on them. Here is my attempt to keep them somewhere safer than the piles on my desk.

——————

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(After I handed Sammy his breakfast at his highchair.)
Clara: Sammmmmyyyy…you say “Thank you, Jessie.”

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(During a dinner discussion about the veggies on her plate.)
Jessie: You love carrots. You have to eat both of those.
Clara: Yes, but Mama, I’m too LITTLE to eat carrots.

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(Wandering into the kitchen while I’m making breakfast. Leans casually against the fridge.)

Clara: What you doing, Mom?
Jessie: I’m making coffee.
Clara: Oh, coffee? Cool.

(Sitting with me in my bedroom while I’m putting on make up. Her brother crawls in and heads towards me. She stands in his way, arms crossed.)
Clara: No, you go play, Sammy. I want to talk to my mommy. Go.

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(As I’m standing in the kitchen and drinking my coffee, a few minutes after I dropped a cup of water while handing it to her.)
Clara: Ummm, Mom? Don’t walk with your coffee. Sit down at the table.

(In a busy aisle at Costco.)
Jessie: deep in thought over the list in her head, makes a thinking noise with her lips…which comes out like a fart noise.
Clara: EXCUSE you, Mom!
Other people: Staring.
Jessie: Nervous laugh towards staring people.
Clara: Mom, did you POOP?
Jessie: What? No! I made that noise with my mouth.
Clara: (Shouting now.) You pooped with your MOUTH?

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*I know my kid isn’t the only ridiculous one. Tell me some stuff your toddler is spouting off and let’s laugh together.

travel with kids: everything nobody else will tell you.

When I was 22 years old, freshly married and kid-free, I had the moronic confidence of someone whose main job is to take care of themselves. So when my sister offered me a free plane ticket to Hawaii, a free ticket which was a carrot on the end of a long stick named “but you have to bring my 3 kids with you,”  I was like yeah, sure, bring it on! I think I may have said, and I quote,

“How hard can it be to fly with three kids?”

Laughing, laughing, laughing all around, cue my inevitable humiliation and whatever disasters awaited me. No matter WHAT happened on that trip, I would deserve it, if only  for the foolish audacity to imagine everything would be juuuust fine. And happen things did.

Everything was fine all the way to San Francisco, where I fed them lunch, the 1-year-old, 4-year-old, and 6-year-old who I was about to cart across the Pacific Ocean. We had just boarded the plane for Honolulu when the 4-year-old announced that her stomach hurt. After we settled into our seats, she leaned over and hurled that airport lunch all over herself. I cleaned her up in the spacious confines of the airplane bathroom with the wet wipes and extra outfit her mom had advised me to pack, praying it was an isolated moment of motion sickness. And then she proceeded to projectile vomit for FIVE. HOURS. STRAIGHT. I am not exaggerating. She threw up on her clothes, she threw up on her second set of clothes, she threw up on her seat, she threw up on her sister’s seat, she threw up on her brother’s seat, she threw up on my seat, she threw up on her stuffed animals, and in the very worst move of the entire stomach emptying episode from hell, she threw up on the DVD players.

I don’t even remember the middle three hours of that flight. I think I blacked out for a while, purely for self-preservation. At one point I found myself asking the annoyed flight attendants for yet another large plastic bag, which I was ripping into with my teeth to create head and arm holes, and making my embarrassed and miserable niece wear as a puke poncho. An older woman walking down the aisle patted my shoulder, then leaned in and said,

“Honey, you are a saint.”
I gripped her hand and pulled her down to face me, and with wild eyes I whispered back,
“These aren’t my kids.”

The point IS, we made it to Hawaii, where I promptly caught the same stomach bug and threw up for two days straight while my sister, in gratitude and slight amusement, tossed toast and magazines to me from her guest room doorway.

Since that adventure, I have traveled thousands and thousands and thousands of miles with my own kids, by planes, trains, and automobiles,  with my husband and (foolishly, again) by myself. I gladly share all of my hard-won and pathetically earned secret information to make your travels as painless and smooth as possible when accompanied by small selfish people who think gum is a food group.

IMG_0364^^ On our way home from Boston. To be fair, I took the kids across the country by myself for 10 days. I needed a lot of stuff. ^^

 

 Travel With Kids: Everything Nobody Else Will Tell You

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PEOPLE’S PITY.
For the most part, your fellow passengers are so glad to be traveling alone and oh so glad to not be you, and this translates into a helpful attitude. When they ask if they can help, be ready with an answer! Can they hold the baby for a split second while you rearrange your carry-on full of toys? Can they pull a bag out from the stroller basket? Can they unzip that DVD case for you? Can they carry your bag up to that bench by Starbucks?

Give them a chance to do a good deed and give yourself a chance to breathe for a split second. Everybody wins.

BE THE LAST PEOPLE ON THE PLANE.
Not the first. Never the first. You’re just wasting precious running around time- run their little legs ragged while you can, people. And then you won’t have to wait in a long quiet line, or walk slowly in a line down the aisle, or have to hustle your kids out-of-the-way when you finally find your seats. Go on last. Trust me.

PICK THE FLIGHT WITH LONGER LAYOVERS OR NONE AT ALL.
Because old-you might have been able to make a 20 minute connection with a bathroom break AND a coffee run, but parent-you needs to find the family bathroom, change a diaper, nurse a baby, let the kids run up and down a few empty hallways, eat lunch, wash hands, repack carry-on bags and then maybe finally buy an over-priced latte. Give yourself a few minutes to do all of this, or plan a direct flight. Short layovers are a bad idea.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO OVER-PACK YOUR CARRY-ON BAGS.
In the world of traveling with kids, there can be this undercurrent of competition in who does it better. I saw a mom in an airport who was wearing her baby, had a toddler on a leash,  and ONE SMALL DIAPER BAG on her arm. Meanwhile, I had a double stroller, a backpack, and a weekender bag JAM PACKED along with my two small children and their various blankets. In the world of who did it better, it might seem like she was winning. This is false. Here’s why: Because I know my kids. I’ve traveled with them a million times, and I knew I would need everything that was in my arsenal of stuff. Think through your whole day of travel, no matter the mode, and plan hour by hour. If your kids are old enough to watch 3 full-length movies and eat apple slices all day, simply pack their DVD player and an apple. If your kids are babies who need constant attention and soothing, pack their favorite blankets and movies and snacks and little toys, so that you can move your day along in 20 minute increments of survival if need be.

PLAN FOR TERRIBLE THINGS TO HAPPEN.
I always, ALWAYS pack two extra outfits for each kid, and enough diapers/undies for an entire day without our luggage, and in case of: spilled apple juice, peed pants, diaper blow-outs, smeared animal crackers, delayed planes, et cetera ET CETERA. Pack their extra clothes in gallon Ziplocks so that you have somewhere to put their dirty clothes, and don’t forget to bring a fresh shirt for yourself as well.

THERE ARE NO ATHIESTS TRAVELING WITH KIDS.
I don’t care what you do or don’t believe about a supreme being. When you are 37,000 feet in the air or 237 miles away from your highway exit and one or all of your kids are crying because you can’t hold them/let them walk/feed them lunch yet/find their binky/get them to sleep- YOU WILL FALL TO YOUR KNEES IN PRAYER. You will cry out to God to fast forward time and space and to please make your baby stop crying, and you will whisper a grateful “thank you” when everyone arrives unscathed. There are no atheists in fox holes, and there are absolutely no unbelievers traveling during nap times. So don’t be afraid to go there; you’ll be better off with a prayer on your lips than a curse word. Although a few of my prayers included curse words, so. Whatever it takes.

BE THANKFUL.
Recognize the incredible privilege of even being on airplane or on a road trip, the magnitude of wealth that a plane ticket or a tank full of gas and a working car represents to billions of people all over the world. You might be getting stressed in the circus of TSA security measures or really tired of hearing your kids ask when you’ll get there, but there’s a mother out there who isn’t sure where her babies’ next meals are coming from. So. Put your shoes on the conveyor belt and be thankful.

IF ALL ELSE FAILS, Screw ‘EM.
My sister in law told me this once. It’s helpful. If things just aren’t going your way, if the day has been long and hard and your baby or toddler just cannot be consoled,  please don’t worry about the passengers around you. They will likely never see you or your kids again. They will go on their merry way and not give you a second thought, so why worry about what they think? Most of them probably feel sorry for you, honestly. And if they are actually upset about a helpless, tired, confused baby who dares to (God forbid) cry on a plane…. then repeat sentiments above. 

So! Happy Travels this holiday season and beyond. May your flights be smooth, your roadtrips be jolly, and your snacks be filling. Much love from the Horney house to you and yours!

The Explosion.

OK so last night I posted this picture on Instagram of me, with my car full of babies in the background, and laid out the woeful story about how my week (HOW IS IT ONLY TUESDAY) has been, and the overwhelming response was,

“Yeah, but your hair looks great.”

And while this affirmation couldn’t have come at a better time, seeing as I spent the better part of an hour on Sunday evening plucking out gray hairs (how long does plucking precede hair dye? When should that bridge be crossed?) and bemoaning my extreme post-natal hair loss (seriously, it does not stop. I’m sure an entire underworld, complete with a mayor and a bustling city square, has taken up residence in the nest in my shower drain). So, my hair situation has been depressing, at best.

Especially because I haven’t had any hair products or hair tools since July 25.
July 25, 2014.
The Day I Blew Up My Bathroom.

This is the story of the Explosion of 2014. Would you like to know how to take the worst family pictures of all time and eternity? Gather in, I’ll tell you. Listen closely so you know what steps to take.

1. Have your baby get really sick the night before your photo shoot. 
I’m talking waking up screaming at 1:00 am covered in vomit so thick that he can’t open his eyelids, crying for hours on end and downright miserable sick. This way, he will be pale and limp in the pictures the next day, and you will also be pale and shriveled due to only sleeping for two hours the night before. If you’re looking for pallid, squinting into the blessed light of day pictures, this is a perfect beginning.

2. Plan a 15 hour road trip following your photo shoot. 
We planned ours for a family reunion in Colorado. This created plenty of frenzied packing, stressing, and a general sense of urgency around the day that translated really well into the photos.

3. Have out of town family stay at your house the night before the shoot. 
This way not only will your sick baby leave you tired, cranky, and in a hurry to make that 9 a.m. golden hour of light, but you will also feel an unnecessary pull to make coffee and breakfast for your brother and sister in law and their sweet baby. They won’t be expecting it, they’re much better people than that, but you might as well kill yourself to make it happen. It will make sense later, I promise.
Just kidding, it will never make sense and your pictures will blow.

4. Hire a photographer site unseen because you’ve been pregnant and/or nursing for almost three years and after one glass of champagne you’re cross-eyed drunk and ready to BID THE CRAP out of that silent charity auction. 
It’s three months before I will actually make a date to take these pictures, but sure, $100 for a photo shoot and an 11×14 print? Here’s my bid number, gents. Just let me know where to pick up my prize. Also, is there a private room where I could use the hand-held breast pump in my purse? Thankssomuch.

5. Try to get yourself, your husband, a 6 month old and 2 year old out the door dressed in their best and beaming with smiling faces. By 8:20 a.m.
Go ahead.

6. Get up first and get ready fast.
Don’t worry, you can do a few touch ups before you leave.

7. Leave your make-up on the counter and your flat iron plugged in.
Again, ready for touch ups right before you head out to the photo shoot that you barely remember paying for.

8. Is everyone almost ready? Go drink some coffee. 
You deserve it. You need it. Put your tired feet up for a quick minute and talk to your sister-in-law about how fun the family reunion is going to be.

9. Startle at the sound of a bomb going off. Wonder what that alarming noise just was. 
A shelf that ripped from a wall? A gun shot? A broken water pipe? Everyone needs to slowly lower their coffee mugs and go find the source of the cracking thunder that came from somewhere inside your house. 

10. Search the house. Then open your bathroom door. Blink at the carnage. 
At first the shrapnel on the floor won’t make sense. Neither will the mist hanging in the hair, choking all of you. It’s ok. You’ll start putting the (literal) pieces together.

Yes…
That’s part of the flat iron.
And there’s the blow-dryer, cracked in half.
And here’s another piece of the flat iron.
And what’s this?
A slick and lethal piece of metal, blown across the bathroom, etched in gold with the words “Root Booster”.

A tall and thin aerosol can, $50 worth of root boosting magic from my overpriced and snobby salon, BLOWN TO BITS BY THE HEAT FROM MY STRAIGHTENER.

My straightener is strewn in 29 different corners, springs and titanium and cord spread all around my bathroom.
My toiletries bag, packed for our trip to Colorado, packed with at least 5 pounds of shampoo and conditioner and make-up and hygiene products-
has blown over the top of my shower.
Over. The. Top. Of a 6 foot shower door.

Such was the force of this explosion. Weeks later, I would find a tampon on the window sill above my shower. Find scraps of metal plastered to the wall in a film of hair product. Find tiny pieces of make-up brushes and hair spray bottles on the shelf above the towel rack.

So not only was the baby sick and his parents exhausted, not only did our photographer spend two hours calling our son “Sawyer” because we didn’t catch it the first few times and eventually were too embarrassed to correct her, not only did she tell us to let Clara “be Clara” which basically just meant disobey our every command because she knew another grown up was letting her get away with murder, not only did this result in Clara skipping away from us and quite deservedly falling into an ankle deep off-shoot of the Boise river and ruining her dress, NOT ONLY was all of this happening on a Saturday morning right before we drove in a rented Yukon for 15 hours to Montrose, Colorado;

but I was also dealing with a minor case of PTSD.
“That could have killed one our kids,” I sobbed to Sam as we attempted to clean up the mess before we left the house that morning.
“It could have blinded me, or killed one of us, or sliced our necks open!” I could not stop crying, could not stop imagining all the ways my idiotic mistake could have ruined my life. Sam tried to console me (after starting to chastise me and quickly realizing I was doing a fine job of it on my own) and told me to wipe my eyes and get in the car, because we had pictures to take.
Pictures I was forcing him to take, he reminded me.

I haven’t allowed myself to buy any expensive hair product, or replace any of my hair tools since that day, in deep and sincere penance for my stupidity. I have been using a 4″ hotel-sized hair dryer I used to keep in my guest bathroom. I have stopped by my friends or sisters’ houses before I went somewhere if I really needed any heat styling, sneaking into their bathrooms to use their straighteners or curlers and hair spray.

I have been having a bad hair day since July 25.

Until yesterday. When I finally gave in and bought another flat iron.
Thus, the amazement via internet at what I had the possibility of looking like. Thus, the approval of the world at large.

And in case you’re wondering, I don’t have any of those pictures to show you. I can’t blame all of it on the photographer, because most of the blame lies with Sammy being sick and Clara being naughty and Sam being annoyed and me being strung out on fear,
but the pictures were not worth purchasing.
Not even the free one.

So thanks, internet and instagram friends, for the kind words about my hair. Thank you for reminding an irresponsible, graying old lady that with a little bit of heat and product and trapping two kids in a pack n’ play in order to shower and style this head of falling out hair,

I still got it.

with my niece at the pumpkin patch.
before I bought another straightener.
aaaannnddd 3 weeks later.
Oh bangs. I just can’t quit you.